FAQs for Students and Academic Advisors


The Core Curriculum at SMC has the following requirements:

Habits of Mind with the goal of increasing proficiency related to critical thinking, shared inquiry, research practices, oral and written communication. Requirements include:

-Collegiate Seminar: 3 courses (SEM 150, 250, 350) for 4-year students; 2 courses (SEM 327, 350) for transfer students entering with 30+ units of academic coursework.

-January Term: 2 courses (JAN 100 and JAN 200 or higher) for 4-year students; 1 course (JAN 200 or higher) for transfers

-Composition: 2 courses: WRIT 100 or 101 WRIT 200 or 201 to be completed at SMC or at another accredited institution. Transfer students who enter without completing a 200-level writing course are expected to enroll in WRIT 308.

-Writing In The Discipline (WID): to be completed in the major


Pathways to Knowledge with the goal of providing training in diverse pathways to knowledge via a cross-disciplinary approach to learning. Requirements include:

-Arts & Humanities: one or two courses totaling at least 4 units, one of the units must be creative practice

-Mathematical and Scientific Understanding: 1 course in each area: Math = one course for a minimum of 3 units and Science = 3 unit lecture + 1 unit lab

-Social Science: one course for a minimum of 3 units


Theological Understanding: 2 courses- the first is Christian Foundations (3 units) and the second in Theological Exploration (3 units) for 4-year students, and 1 course (4 units) for transfer students


Engaging the World with the goal of exploring justice, civic responsibility, and social, economic and cultural differences, by examining and reflecting on what it means to be a citizen in local and global communities.  Requirements include 1 class/experience in each area:

-Identity, Power, and Equity in the US: 1 course for a minimum of 3 units examining the social, cultural, economic, political diversity of the United States.

-Engaged Learning: 1 course for a minimum of 1 unit applying intellectual experiences to the community beyond the academy.

-Global Issues and Perspectives: 1 course for a minimum of 3 units examining social, economic, religious structures from different global cultures.

Second Language: Students must demonstrate level two proficiency in a language other than English. Can be met through three years of high school coursework with a C- or better average, collegiate coursework, or through examination

This should be an ongoing conversation with your academic advisor. In addition, you can make an appointment with the Advising Office to discuss your progress (tao@stmarys-ca.edu). For specific questions about the Core Curriculum, contact Steve Miller, Chair of the Core Curriculum, via email at scmiller@stmarys-ca.edu or by phone 925-631-4970.

The Core offerings at SMC vary each semester and can be found on the CCC home page and on GaelXpress 2.0


Each student's Program Evaluation in GaelXpress has a list of requirements that have been met and highlights the ones that have not been met.

Students are able to satisfy the core requirements in a number of different ways- through coursework within and outside of their academic major, throughout the entire academic year including January Term and summer, and through the use of transfer courses (which can include online courses).

Courses within the major. Courses in the major can and do satisfy areas of the Core. Many departments have planned their curricular offerings to allow students to satisfy specific Core requirements through the major. Check specific department offerings each semester to determine which specific courses have Core designations.

Summer Courses. Summer courses count as normal courses (with the exception of the January Term in June course, which counts as a January Term course); therefore departmentally overseen courses taught in the summer carry their designations with them.

Online courses. The Core Curriculum Committee is not concerned about the delivery method of courses; in particular, it is agnostic with respect to the appropriateness of online courses. Appropriateness of online courses is determined by the  UEPC, the CCC chair, and the individual departments.

January Term courses.  While January Term courses with the JAN prefix cannot be used to satisfy other Core requirements (aside from Engaged Learning) some courses offered in January will carry the CORE prefix and will satisfy Engaging the World. Those can be found on the January Term webpage and on GaelXPress 2.0.

Off-campus/Transfer Courses.  Off-campus courses that a department counts as SMC courses will receive the same treatment as the SMC courses, at least for the Habits of Mind and Pathways to Knowledge goals. Off-campus courses that count as SMC courses with an Engaging the World designation do NOT automatically receive the EtW designation. Students seeking that designation can contact the CCC chair at scmiller@stmarys-ca.edu.

For courses meant to fulfill a learning goal, by “complete a course” we mean “gains a passing grade.” A grade of “D” suffices, unless that course serves as a prerequisite for another course. For example, students must earn a C- or better in WRIT 100 to be eligible for WRIT 201, and earn a C- or better to move on to a WiD course, but a D will suffice in an upper division Core course if it is not a prerequisite for anything else. Moreover, a P does not suffice for a Core course.

Core requirements cannot be waived (except in special circumstances); students need to complete all of the Core requirements either at SMC or by transfer credit.

Students can petition to have Core requirements satisfied through AP scores, transfer and study abroad courses, Independent Study. Students can contact the CCC chair (scmiller@stmarys-ca.edu) with any questions about transfer courses or AP scores.

FAQs for Habits of Mind (Seminar, Composition, WiD, and January Term)

First year-Four year students are required to complete SEM 150 in their first year, SEM 250 in their second year, and then SEM 350 in either their third or fourth year.

Transfer students are required to complete SEM 327 in their first year and SEM 350 at some point after that.

First year-Four year students are required to complete a 100-level JAN course in their first year and one more JAN (200 level or higher) before graduation. Students are encouraged to take up to four JAN courses.

Transfer students are required to complete one JAN course (200 level or higher)

Typically not. JAN courses are not usually offered in the summer terms.

No, with very few exceptions, January Term must be completed at SMC. Students studying abroad in an SMC program may take a fifth class while abroad to satisfy the January Term requirement if the program starts in January. Please contact the January Term office directly if there are extenuating circumstances you believe will prevent you from being able to satisfy the requirement at SMC.

Currently, SEM 350 is often taught in the summer, to facilitate graduating on time for students who needed to take an extra class. If students are behind on other Seminars, it is usually possible to catch up by taking two SEM courses in one year during the fall and spring semesters.

Collegiate Seminar is not taught at many other institutions. Most Colleges and Universities fill this kind of Habits of Mind learning outcome with a survey course, which is not transferable as Collegiate Seminar. All great books discussion-based courses would have to be examined in a petition for transfer. Please contact the Collegiate Seminar Office with specific questions about transfer courses.

The Habits of Mind learning goals are developmental, and so the classes that teach the HoM outcomes should be taken sequentially. For example, SEM 150 uses and builds upon the writing skills taught in WRIT 100, i.e., WRIT 100 is a corequisite for SEM 150.

WRIT 201 is a prerequisite requirement for most WID courses, although some departments may list WRIT 201 as a co-requisite requirement. Please check with each individual department for clarification.

Transfer students may waive WRIT if they have taken the equivalent at their previous institution or if the Composition Director determines that they place out of WRIT 100.

For split majors, the student, in conjunction with faculty from both “splits,” should decide which department to take the WID course in, and might decide to take both. For individualized majors it’s possible that no WID designated course may be appropriate or accessible for a particular program of study. In this case, the CCC allows for a student to submit a formal request to have an alternative course substitute as their WID.

FAQs for Pathways to Knowledge (PtK) Requirements

Students who score high enough on an AP or similar exam (as determined by the Registrar’s Office) to merit lower division elective credit also receive academic credit in the PtK area. Those who took the AP exam but did not do well enough to get academic credit do NOT get credit in the PtK area.

No. In order to satisfy PtK Learning Outcomes, the primary focus of the course must be devoted to one particular PtK. Since a course cannot have more than one primary focus, it cannot satisfy two PtK areas. The lone exception to this is ART/HUM (a course can satisfy ART/HUM and CP simultaneously).

All SMC students are expected to meet all Pathways to Knowledge requirements. PtL requirements are not waived for students.

Yes. Requests will be reviewed by the Chair of the Core Curriculum on an individual basis.

To complete the Scientific Understanding requirement, students must complete a science-based lab that focuses on quantitative data analysis. If your original science course did not have a lab, you can take a separate science lab to complete the requirement.

Because the Christian Foundations course is a signifier of our Catholic nature, that course may not be transferred in. However, Theological Exploration courses can be taken at other institutions and transferred in with approval of the CCC Chair.

Off-Campus courses counted as equivalent to SMC courses with EtW designations will not 'automatically' satisfy Engaging the World goals. Students wishing to seek credit for EtW courses taken outside of SMC need to do so by contacting the CCC chair at scmiller@stmarys-ca.edu.

Not necessarily. Whether a specific section of a course meets the EtW goals, is largely dependent of the instructor and the method of delivery. Not all sections of the course will meet the same learning goals and therefore different sections of the same course may have different EtW designations. Students are held to whatever designations the course section has received. When in doubt please check the course syllabus or the Registrar's Office.

Yes. The CCC Chair will consider petitions that courses outside of the traditional SMC curriculum satisfy Engaging the World goals. Such requests must include the course syllabus and final project (if any).

No. In some cases, the EL requirement has been satisfied through other means. In those RARE cases, the student has to demonstrate mastery of the Engaged Learning (EL) Learning Outcomes through service learning and an extensive paper summarizing how the experience was connected to EL Learning Outcomes.